Monday, September 20, 2010

Facing Life's Challenges: Thoughts from Inside the MRI Machine

by Rev. Jayne Davis

All I could think about as I entered the tube of the stark white MRI machine was Toy Story 3 - Woody, Buzz Light Year, the Potato Heads – all grasping for metal objects so they would be sucked up by the powerful magnet and avoid the fiery furnace at the city dump. I was certain the myriad of fillings in my mouth would be ripped right from my teeth by the pull of the “strong magnetic field” that the ‘Caution’ poster in the dressing room warned me about. My morning had been frustrating enough already. I really didn’t need this kind of stress.

The MRI was for my shoulder – nothing life threatening. Just some eye watering pain when I reach too far into the refrigerator. I’ve put all of the high fat foods way in the back in a Pavlovian effort to train myself not to want them. It’s amazing how much pain a person can bear.

I didn’t want to be in the doctor’s office or dealing with my shoulder. Life’s challenges are always an interruption to the way we’d like things to be. Sometimes they’re an annoyance. Sometimes they shake the very foundation of our world. However serious, however sudden, however uncertain… some thoughts from inside the MRI machine may help you as you face the challenges in your life.

1. Don’t let the chaos drown out the music.

The technician gave me a pair of headphones and my choice of music stations – [80’s] - to drown out the loud noise of the machine. Between the screeching of what sounded like dental drills and the pounding of my heart in my chest, I had to strain at times to hear Twisted Sister on the radio.

In the midst of it all, there is music still playing in your world. Listen for it.

2. Open your eyes along the way – even when it’s scary.

Life is fascinating. There’s always something interesting to be seen, maybe even something inspiring. When I finally got up the courage to open my eyes during the MRI, I was amazed by … nothing. There’s nothing visible going on inside the tube. Smooth white walls. No zig-zaggy neon radio waves flashing across my body. Just like God at work in my life, so much was happening that I couldn’t see, but had to trust to be so.

This season of struggle is not an intermission until your real life begins again. This is the journey. Open your eyes. Live it.

3. Don’t over think it.

If I’d known ahead of time they were spinning the protons on my hydrogen molecules, I’d have been itchy the whole time. And dizzy, as they altered my magnetic field. If you have a renegade imagination, don’t allow it to dwell on the fact that the MRI machine looks like a giant blood pressure cuff that you’re precariously smack in the middle of.

We cannot control what thoughts come in to our minds, but God does give us the power to choose which ones we allow to take up residence there. Choose wisely.

4. Be grateful for the small things.

Sometimes God’s grace takes the form of a pillow under your knees, the kindness of a technician, the chance to close your eyes and rest in the middle of a Monday.
Notice these small graces and you recognize what abundant life feels like.

5. Take the blanket.

It’s cold in there. You’ll need it, even if you think you don’t need anything.

People want to help. Let them.

6. Focus on the important things.

Nothing culls down a prayer list like being strapped to a table to keep you from moving. God’s peace and presence. Family. Trust. The essentials.

Now is not the time to be carrying unnecessary baggage. Give it to God. He’ll dispose of it for you. If it’s really important, he’ll give it back to you when you’re ready.

7. Wiggle your toes every now and then.

Sometimes life’s challenges can keep you stuck in one position for a long time.

Wiggle your toes and remind yourself that you’re still there. Whatever helps you to feel alive… and keep your legs from going numb. You'll smile... and probably catch the technician off guard.

8. Sometimes you have to be still until it’s over.

We can’t fix everything. We can’t control everything. Sometimes we have to ride it out and trust that Jesus will guide us safely to shore.

“Be still and know that I am God."

Jayne Davis is the Minister of Spiritual Formation at First Baptist Church of Wilmington, and this article originally appeared in her blog.

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